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Spectrum will be producing content and products on The Shaft from now until housing selection in early April. We think we’ve got a lot of the issues covered, but if at any time you have questions about The Shaft or housing selection at Barnumbia, let us know and we’ll be able to cover it.

Housing selection starts Wednesday, March 1, for Barnard and Thursday, March 2, for Columbia. Many of you—whether you’re rising seniors, juniors, or sophomores—still might be feeling a little very unprepared. Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

What is a group?

A group consists of 2-8 people with whom you will select your housing. At Columbia, each group will be given a single lottery number. At Barnard, individual members will be given a lottery number and the highest one will be assigned to the group.

When will I form a group?

At Barnard, you’ll be able to form a group even after lottery numbers are released. For Columbia, you have to know going into registration (March 2) that you want to live in a group. You’ll have to decide what size group you want, and you can only break up the group, not add to it.

What is a mixed group (for Barnard)?

At Barnard, if an upperclassman “pulls in” people from lower classes, the entire group chooses during the registration time of the person in the lowest grade. This can be a strategic move if the upperclassman doesn’t have a good number.

Columbia, you’re out of luck, since you have to form groups during housing registration (i.e. before numbers come out).

What is your lottery number?

Your lottery number is made of up two parts, the first based on class year, and the second randomly assigned. The first part corresponds to seniority (30 for seniors, 20 for juniors, and 10 for sophomores), and is averaged for a mixed group. The second part ranges from one to 3000 and decides the order in which you pick (with one being the best).

For Barnard, it’s a little different. You’ll just be given a number, say, 486. The numbers from senior selection carry over to junior selection, so unless you know the cutoffs for each class year, it’ll be a little harder to see where you stand.

What is housing registration vs. housing selection?

Housing registration is when you declare your housing category and your group. Housing categories for Columbia are:

  • Special housing: RAs, RA riders, members of Greek life, LLC members, and SIC members
  • Non-Columbia Housing: if you are studying abroad, living off campus, living at Barnard, etc.
  • In-Person Group Selection: if you’re a group hoping for doubles and singles in a suite, or a double in a hall.
  • Online Selection: if you’re an individual or group that wants to choose singles or doubles near each other, but not necessarily in the same suite.

Housing selection is the process of choosing your room after receiving your lottery number and appointment time.

What is a housing appointment?

Based on your lottery number, you will be assigned a time to either go to the Cage or choose your housing online.

What is the Cage?

The Cage is not an actual cage, but where you go for in-person selection. It is the John Jay Lounge for Columbia and the Brooks Lounge for Barnard.

What is online vs. in-person selection?

Online selection is only at Columbia. It’s when you choose to select housing on the online portal. It’s used to choose singles or doubles in the same residence hall but not necessarily the same suite. It can be done by groups or individuals. You can either choose online selection during housing registration, or drop to online after receiving your lottery number.

In-person group selection occurs in the Cage, and allows the group to choose doubles and suites together.

Have any other housing questions you need answered? Have any questions in general? Reach us on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. She knows too much about housing for a first-year. Reach her at  

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